Whether you like it or not, garage rock has well and truly cemented a comeback in the modern day music scene. The last year and a half has seen the genre resurrected to a point where it’s become normal to hear garage rock bands fly by on the radio or tear a festival to shreds. One such band is Den Haag-based The Deaf, featuring Spike from Di-Rect on vocal duties. We spoke to drummer Kit and bassist Miss Fuzz at Pinkpop Festival this year, where the band successfully conquered Stage 4. Read on for more.
Our chat with the pair took place in the sweltering heat, right in the heart of Pinkpop’s artist village. From the moment they arrive, you can see that The Deaf are clearly enjoying their chance to play at the festival. Frontman and guitarist Spike has played at the festival before, with his presence backstage definitely being made known. His bandmates, organ player Mau (spotted the following evening crowdsurfing during Pharrel’s headline set), drummer Kit and bassist Miss Fuzz are all in tow and enjoying all the attention that they’re receiving. Our chat swiftly takes place as Spike and Mau head in another direction to speak to 3voor12, with Kit and Miss Fuzz sitting down opposite All Things Loud. The band released their self-titled sophomore record last year, recording at the Electric Monkey Studios in Amsterdam. “When you walk through the door it’s like a twilight zone, it’s a big 60s bubble that you walk into” explains Kit, adding that the studio features swathes of vintage gear from BBC/EMI era. “We really wanted to record this album with all four of us in one room, with all the amps in one room so that we could really capture the liveliness of the band” continues the drummer, later telling us that almost the whole record was recorded straight to tape in one go. “That was a very important aspect for us in doing the album, because we didn’t want to make an overly produced album. We wanted to capture the rawness and live energy of the band, which is why we chose to record it in this studio”, he concludes. Electric Monkey Studios has a big live room, somewhere where all the influences come streaming in as the band play on. On the subject of influences, Miss Fuzz tells us that the band “love the rawness of 60s recordings”. “Newer bands like The Hives influence us, but also bands like The Kinks and Q65” she continues, adding, “We also like it that the source is very pure. When you record digitally you can manipulate the sound through mixing and mastering the tracks, but we just spent a lot of time creating the sound that we wanted to record. That’s why the source is important, like all the equipment and gear”. By this point it’s very clear that The Deaf take a very DIY approach to their music, something which aesthetically is very 60s. Most songs were recorded in one go, with the band having 10 days to record and mix the whole record. For their first record, Kit explains that “all the instrumentals were done in a couple of days”, with the band thinking that it would be a breeze doing that again. They were wrong, though, as they ended up spending up to five hours perfecting the sounds of certain tracks so that they would be ready to go straight on tape. “We wanted to take each song as an individual recording process” explains Kit, stating that it took a lot of time. The band finished recording with a full, 25-hour long session which went completely uninterrupted, literally finishing the record and heading straight off to the famous Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg. When we say literally, we mean it. The band rounded up recording for their record, drove back to The Hague for their gear and drove straight to Hamburg. “It was a very hectic final session” according to Kit, later telling us that the mixing sessions lasted up to 23 hours at a time, with two hours of sleep in between.
Not only the recording session was hectic, though, as The Dead have recently made a name for themselves as one of the craziest live acts in Holland. But what drives a band to remain so active and give it their all night upon night? Kit explains that the band have been very close friends for roughly 15 years now, having formed The Deaf seven years into their friendship. “We were friends before we formed this band, and it’s to just play a show with good friends” he says, adding that the crowd also drives them just as much. “We give a lot of energy and the crowd gives a lot back” he says, with Miss Fuzz adding that the size of the crowd really doesn’t matter. “It doesn’t matter if we play Pinkpop Festival or a small club in Barcelona [the band will tour there later this year] for 100 people. The show needs to be an experience for us, and for the crowd” she says. The band, as Miss Fuzz states, go absolutely mental onstage. “We don’t have to tell each other that we’re really going mental tonight, it just happens” she explains. The only thing which the band plan each night is the setlist, with the rest just flowing spontaneously. Organist Mau is extremely energetic onstage, his band members thus comparing him to an acrobat. “It’s all about having too much fun” grins Miss Fuzz, with Kit emphasizing the importance of how a certain song can have different effects on certain audiences. This is how the band adapts their live show each night, having absolutely no idea in advance what could possibly happen. “I think that’s what keeps it interesting and very cool to do” declares Kit, also adding that they don’t feel like certain shows should get special treatment compared to others. Many of the Dutch bands appearing at Pinkpop tend to hook up guest performers and special effects for their show, yet with The Deaf you get none of that. You just get a proper rock show, one where the band give “200%” and where “every show is completely different”. Kit feels that it wouldn’t be fair on other shows if you put different amounts of energy into them.
When it comes to picking a live highlight of their career so far, Miss Fuzz immediately retouches on the Reeperbahn club shows in Hamburg, which were their first in Germany. “We played the Reeperbahn Festival in September and went straight to the Molotov Club afterwards, which is filled with mods and punks. Everyone there is just ready to lose themselves”. Of course the tough part of it all was whether or not they would be received well, particularly considering as nobody had heard of them. Thankfully luck was on their side, though, with the whole venue packed to the rafters and everyone going crazy. “It was the smallest stage we’ve ever played on” she adds, with Kit completely agreeing about choice of show. The best shows, as we all agree on, are the ones where you’re so close to the crowd that you’re almost at one with them. Those are the shows that everyone enjoys the most, even if the big festivals do give your band a large stage to play in. “Sometimes, when we play in front of such a big crowd, it’s hard to reach everyone, but at Life I Live [which the band headlined in April] everybody was ready to party” explains Miss Fuzz, before Kit elaborates on her point by explaining how different club shows and festivals are. “When you play a club show, people are buying a ticket to come and see you, but at a festival you can just reach a new audience. That’s what makes festivals so special”. Kit goes on to mumble and stutter mistakenly, with Miss Fuzz claiming that it should be the headline of this article. Which it is, in a way. We did promise to quote Kit on it after all.
The final topic we touch on during our chat is that of making money on the road. Not every artist has it easy making money from one band alone, with many playing in various side projects or having day jobs. Miss Fuzz plays in three bands, the other two being The Indien and Smutfish. She also has a hand at band coaching, with her whole life revolving around music. “For me it’s a way of living” she says, adding that it’s the one thing she likes to do more than anything else. “We get to see new places and meet new people whilst pushing ourselves to get the most out of it” she adds, making it very evident that her life is nothing but music. By this point our chat comes to an end as the whole band reconvenes for a 3voor12 group shot. Their set the following day was everything that you’d expect from the quartet, with the whole Stage 4 tent absolutely packed. If there’s one thing that you can conclude about The Deaf, it’s that they are the next big Dutch band and that they’re here to stay.
Picture: Jorg de Groot (3voor12)
Featured Picture: Paul Bergen